Offbeat Learning Methods off Target

Article excerpt

Offbeat learning methods off target

To help its recruits live up to the slogan "Be all that you can be," the Army has long hunted for methods of enhancing the performance of soldiers and technicians, who might have to operate complex machinery and work cohesively in groups under wartime conditions. The Army has looked into all kinds of methods, including many unconventional ones -- such as meditation, biofeedback and split-brain learning -- that grew out of the human potential movement of the 1960s.

To sort out the claims made about such techniques, the Army asked the National Research Council (NRC) in 1984 to assess the scientific validity of studies evaluating these methods. Last month, NRC released its report, "Enhancing Human Performance: Issues, Theories and Techniques." Says NRC committee chairman John Swets of Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., "The underlying theme that emerges from our study is that there are probably no easy ways or quick fixes for helping people perform more effectively." Swets's committee could find little scientific support for parapsychology, neurolinguistic programming or methods that integrate activity from the left and right brain hemispheres. …